New Internet Access business model research with DFID, USAID and Dial

We spent the best part of 2016 working on two reports that analysed the emerging new internet access business models being applied to developing markets.  One of them  – the Digital Access in Africa report we wrote with DFID – specifically looked at a range of policy and private sector issues pertaining to internet access.  In particular, this report has some interesting primary research into the usage of Facebook Zero, and offers user perspectives on its usage.

The second report is one we wrote for Dial and USAID – Closing the Access Gap – looks in more detail at what the business models and typologies of internet access are emerging, and argues what will or will not enable their success.  We think this report offers a vital tool in the business model typology and case studies, and the discussion around these.

It was fantastic to work with all three organisations, and also with the world-class expert panels we convened for both projects.  It has moved our own thinking on considerably, driven by the framework our Senior Director of Research Jonathan Donner develops in his book After Access.  I think we’ve collectively learnt a lot about what business models might, and might not, work, and since this research was completed last year our thinking internally has developed a lot.

Upcoming research from Caribou on Digital Advertising in Emerging Markets will provide yet another lens on the access topic, by investigating how likely it is that traditional methods of monetising services via the attention economy will succeed in emerging markets.  This, we hope, will provide additional analysis to these two reports by investigating whether zero-rating, ad-funded access from providers who have advertising as their primary way of monetising customers is a viable way of closing the access gap.

We’ve come a long way in looking at whether un-metered, broadband, always-on connectivity is a meaningful and viable product for low-income users, as we rightly believe that un-fettered access to an open-internet is the right goal to aim for.  But for users used to a metered-mindset, to use Jonathan Donner’s phrase, who increasingly don’t even conceptually understand what the open internet is, let alone understand why they should pay for it, the internet may look more like ‘topping up Facebook’, where access and service are inextricably linked.

For these consumers, closing the access gap may mean enveloping them within a digital platform, and a hegemonic digital ecosystem.  In future research we hope to build on the arguments within these two research reports, and ask more questions about the issues around this potential future, and also question the underlying economics of providing subsidised access in general.

Fintech innovation in action! – DFS Lab 1-week bootcamp in Dar es Salaam

The DFS Lab has reached a major milestone — we’re kicking off our first entrepreneur boot camp in Dar es Salaam!

Some of you saw this original post calling all great and aspiring fintech entrepreneurs to apply to come test their mettle in a 1 week sprint to crack a major fintech challenge. From the original post:

“This October, a select group of purpose-driven entrepreneurs will converge in Dar es Salaam for DFS Lab’s fintech bootcamp, bringing together smart, dynamic people who are building innovative products, services and technologies for low-income consumers. Using the Design Sprint Methodology, a process of structured brainstorming for answering critical business questions, entrepreneurs will go through a five day workshop to design, prototype and test new ideas. By creating quick prototypes, you can get actual feedback and see if there’s a real potential for the solution you’ve created.

This high-intensity program provides you with the very best hands-on support, guidance and mentoring to help bring your idea to life. The best ideas will receive grant funding of up to USD $100K and 6 months of additional support from the DFS Lab.”

Thanks to all of you out there who helped us spread the word about this. We had hundreds of applications and narrowed it down to a great cohort! We have 18 people from 10 countries coming from backgrounds ranging from mobile money CEO to head of innovation for a major bank to UX designer. We even have a former rapper turned engineer (DJ K80)!

We are now through Day 1 and already we see the teams getting a lot of value — both from our mentors and team but very much from each other as well. You can get a sense of the vibe on twitter here and here.

We see the bootcamp as a way to recruit and select our entrepreneurs while at the same time developing a shared purpose around which problem to attack (see the problems we posed to the participants here). What better way to get to know someone than to spend an intensive week working shoulder to shoulder? And unlike the usual grant application, it’s an application process that creates real value for our clients (the entrepreneurs).

To follow the excitement throughout the rest of the week, join on twitter @theDFSLab and #DFSLab

Opportunity for fintech entrepreneurs — up to $100k and 6 months support for your idea

Announcing a great opportunity for entrepreneurs interested in launching a developing world fintech startup! Join Caribou Digital’s DFS Lab team for a 1-week bootcamp in Dar es Salaam with top experts and win 6-months support for your concept. Here is the formal announcement and application portal:

We are the DFS Lab. We strive to create innovations that bring households in developing countries from the cash economy into the digital financial realm and give them tools to improve their lives.

This October, a select group of purpose-driven entrepreneurs will converge in Dar es Salaam for DFS Lab’s fintech bootcamp, bringing together smart, dynamic people who are building innovative products, services and technologies for low-income consumers. Using the Design Sprint Methodology, a process of structured brainstorming for answering critical business questions, entrepreneurs will go through a five day workshop to design, prototype and test new ideas. By creating quick prototypes, you can get actual feedback and see if there’s a real potential for the solution you’ve created.

This high-intensity program provides you with the very best hands-on support, guidance and mentoring to help bring your idea to life. The best ideas will receive grant funding of up to USD $100K and 6 months of additional support from the DFS Lab. The program runs for 5 days and participants are expected to arrive on Sunday, October 23, 2016 and depart on Saturday, October 28, 2016 and includes flights, healthy meals, accommodation and fun!

If you are passionate about solving problems faced by low-income consumers and believe you have what it takes, apply here.

Investment Fund launch in Oxford April 16th

Goodwell Investments and Caribou Digital will on April 16th launch a new platform at Skoll World Forum to catalyze growth of inclusive digital businesses in Africa

Africa is becoming the “mobile continent”. Fuelled by better access to the Internet, more powerful devices, and cheaper data, data traffic is growing faster in Africa than in any other continent. This digital revolution will transform Africa and create opportunities for disruptive innovations targeting complex social, environmental and development challenges.

Already, Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs are forming digital start up communities in places like Lagos, Cape Town and Nairobi, and creating exciting new business models that improve the lives and livelihoods of low-income communities. The potential for achieving scale and impact is huge; however, limited access to funding, insufficient business development support, gaps in the start up ecosystem and dispersed talent pools constrain growth.

Join us for an intimate reception and discussion on the opportunities and challenges that digital start ups face, and learn more about an exciting new platform that Goodwell Investments and Caribou Digital are developing that will channel funding and support to catalyze the growth of inclusive digital businesses, ecosystems of support, industry dynamism and the next generation of technology leaders in Africa.

 

April 16 Goodwell Investments/Caribou Digital Event in Oxford on African Digital Economies & our new Investment Platform

Join us next week – Thursday, April 16 at Skoll World Forum 2015 – for an intimate reception and discussion on the opportunities and challenges that digital start-ups face, and learn more about an exciting new platform that Goodwell Investments and Caribou Digital are developing that will channel funding and support to catalyze the growth of inclusive digital businesses, ecosystems of support, industry dynamism and the next generation of technology leaders in Africa.
RSVP and please feel free share the invite with friends and colleagues.
Thursday, April 16 (3:30-5:30pm)
The Oxford Union
St. Michael’s Street
Oxford, UK
Please RSVP by Monday, April 13, 2015
If you have any questions please email marissa@cariboudigital.net

Watch this space

For the best part of the last year we’ve worked with Inmarsat and Dalberg to develop a proposal for a new programme promoting satellite applications in emerging markets.  

We submitted a proposal at the end of last year with Inmarsat leading a consortium including Equity Bank in Kenya, MAMA in Nigeria, the Space Applications Catapult in the UK and BRCK. We were delighted to win and are a month into the project already. 

Caribou Digital is providing the overall project director in Tim Hayward, with Kishor Nagula and Marissa Drouillard researching on the Equity Bank Kenya part of the programme.  Chris Locke is providing governance as part of the steering committee.

We’ll be researching and experimenting with new business models for Internet access in a way that drives inclusive digital economies in Kenya and Nigeria. All our work will be published here, but also on a new open data site we’re developing with the Space Application Catapult.

So, quite literally, watch this space.

Speaking, and travelling, and speaking.

We’re still incredibly busy, and will talk about the projects we’re working on as soon as clients allow.  But we can talk about the upcoming speaking engagements we’re doing, where we will be giving sneaky peeks into the results of some of our work.  If you’re going to any of these events, come and see us and say hi!

World Bank Spring Meetings – April 17-19 2015, Washington DC

Chris Locke will be speaking on a panel about big data for development

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting – April 21-15 2015, Chicago

Bryan Pon will be presenting our paper on a synthesis of five country studies on inclusive digital economies

ICT4D 2015 – May 15-18 2015, Singapore

Jonathan Donner will be running a workshop on the Shape of Emerging Market Digital Economies

BoP Global Network Summit 2014 – July 16-17 2015, Burlington, Vermont

Jonathan Donner and Chris Locke will run a panel on Digital Economies at the base of the pyramid in partnership with Vital Wave Consulting

 

 

 

 

New Projects, New Staff

It’s been an incredibly busy start to the year here, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down.  While we can’t talk about all the stuff we’re working on just yet, we will be sharing every piece of research and knowledge we glean as soon as we can, and will update here on the links to the work we’re doing.  We will also be launching a dedicated research site later in the summer to host the burgeoning amount of research we’ll be publishing.

We learn equally from our analysis, academic research and delivery in the field.  The three approaches are vital to us and complement each other well.  One of the new projects we started this year is a very innovative service we’re trialling with partners, and as we do more of this and as we grow as a team, we need to have excellent staff who can manage this and make sure that everything on the projects runs smoothly.

It’s with great pleasure we can announce that Tim Hayward has joined us as Senior Director, Operations at Caribou Digital.  He’s the leading programme director on one of our key delivery projects at the moment and will lead on all the delivery projects we have.  I’ve worked with him a lot over the past four years and it’s been great, so I’m very glad to have the chance to continue to work with him.

Caribou Digital/Vital Wave Digital Economies Whitepaper

In April 2014, Caribou Digital and Vital Wave hosted a one-day symposium on Digital Economies at the EmPac Centre at University of California, San Diego. This symposium convened world-leading experts from the industry and non-profit space in a roundtable to discuss a wide range of issues about the opportunities and barriers to building digital economies in emerging markets.

Caribou Digital and Vital Wave authored this white paper to synthesize this discussion and further explore the concept of a Digital Economy with the aim of sharing valuable insights, and spurring discussion and action. The paper discusses the barriers, and presents the benefits and opportunities of a Digital Economy. Chief among the benefits are higher employment, better incomes, and greater entrepreneurship. The paper concludes with guidance and questions for governments, corporations, and local business leaders on how to foster a Digital Economy.

You can download the white paper here.

We are looking to hold these invite-only symposia every six months or so, and we held the second symposium in December 2014 at MIT Legatum.  This time we looked at issues around local access and content, and we’re writing this up at the moment and will post the white paper soon.

Repairing the ‘institutional voids’ – mobile entrepreneurship report with Vimplecom

We’ve been working with Vimplecom on understanding the role mobile operators play in supporting nascent entrepreneur ecosystems, and the report we wrote with them is published today.  We’re pleased to have been able to partner with them to explore where the ‘institutional voids’ are in some markets that mean it’s hard to support young entrepreneurs.

We discovered some great projects in the course of the research, from Djezzy in Algeria running programmes to support the entrepreneurial activities of the North African ‘youth bulge’ to banglalink in Bangladesh who had unprecedented response to the competition to find the next generation of digital entrepreneurs.

Most of all, it’s the small details and decisions made in some of these projects we found the most compelling.  For instance, WIND in Italy forged a partnership with the LUISS Enlabs to host an incubator in Rome.  The location was chosen above Rome railway station, to make it easier for the many commuters who regularly travel between Milan and Rome to participate in events and access the entrepreneurs – and vice-versa.

It’s these small things – placing entrepreneurs where there is a high chance of engaging with existing businesses – that will make accelerators and incubators successful, more than tech grants or the many other things that people throw at projects.  Subtle, considered, sensible interactions with the local infrastructure and business culture are needed.  There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and the Silicon Valley approach is not directly exportable as a model.